More on R. chapmanii
John E. Swisher, Homestead, FL
Florida's endemic lepidote rhododendron, heretofore little appreciated, is receiving attention for its rarity and for its heat tolerance. Recently, in this Bulletin (1), Tatum and Lake reported on the relict Black Creek (Clay County) population, with the view that theirs is the first written account of this stand of R. chapmanii or of any stand of R. chapmanii occurring outside of the Apalachicola River area of Florida.
That credit must in fact go to one Henry R. Totten, a WW II major evidently stationed at Camp Blanding (2). The Clay County site was also mentioned by Edmond Amateis in his informative notes on the species (3).
Ironically, while the Tatum and Long article was in press, R. chapmanii was declared an Endangered Species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. According to information in that ruling, this rhododendron historically was found in six Florida counties, but now is reduced to only three sites, including the one on Black Creek (4). Nonetheless, the Service felt that it would not be prudent to designate a critical habitat for the species, "because publishing detailed information on its location would make it more vulnerable to collecting." (5).
Chapman's rhododendron is sold by a few nurseries, fortunately, so there is no justification whatever for taking specimens from the wild. Some care is advised, however, to ensure that purchased material is authentic. The ARS Seed Bank often lists the species from reliable sources.
For hybridizers especially interested in heat tolerance, it should be noted that R. minus occurs almost as far south as its Florida relative, and may even dip into this state (6).
References and Notes
1. ARS Bulletin, 33, 74 (1979).
2. Proc. Fla. Acad. Sci., 7 (1944-5).
3. RHS Rhododendron and Camellia Yearbook (1957).
4. Federal Register, 44 #80, 24248 (1979).
5. Quoted from news release summarizing (4), dated 4/27/79.
6. Personal communication from Dan Coleman, Jr. (1973).